Update: And it's now official. After follower and driving this bill for months, which at times felt like herding a flock of kittens hopped up on Mountain Dew, Senate Bill 3729, the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, has passed the House YEA 304; NAY 118.
The House just informally passed NASA re-authorization bill reported out of Senate, S3729, by open outcry. If signed into law NASA is now secure in funding for next three years. Via the Houston Chronicle:
The bill, approved by the Senate in August, will go to President Barack Obama for his signature. Of the commercial funding, $1.31 billion will be used for NASA's commercial crew program and $300 million will go to its commercial cargo program.
About 18 Representatives from both parties rose in support of the bill. One notable exception was Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) who rose in strong opposition. After an hour of debate, NASA Authorization Act 2010 passed the House by open outcry but still requires official recorded vote likely entered into record later tonight. MSNBC's Alan Boyle notes on Twitter "it often happens that the chair will declare the voice vote to go the way he wants it to go, until the other side seeks recorded vote." Because of a procedural move by Giffords the vote will need to be officially recorded and gain a two-thirds majority later. This is considered likely but not certain.
Long time space exploration enthusiast Rick Tumlinson, co-Founder of the Space Frontier Foundation, emailed me saying, "Getting NASA back to exploring the Far Frontier of space from the Moon outward and allowing the private sector to take over the now relatively routine job of carrying people and payloads in the Near Frontier is exactly the right way to proceed as we move into the 21st century. The possible passage of the Senate NASA budget is one small step in that direction. Those defending the old pork barrel politics of space failed in the face of a new generation of space activists who have their eyes fixed on the future."
The Act funds commercial rocket and spacecraft manufacturers collectively referred to as Newspace for the first time. It represents a fundamental change in how NASA does business. Although about 85% of NASA's budget has always gone to commercial contractors, those traditional aerospace firms operated under a cost plus arrangement where R & D costs were passed on to NASA with a profit added in as a percentage. Newspace firms plan to provide services on a flat fee basis.